The 103rd Feast of the Blessed Sacrament kicks off Thursday night in New Bedford, and one of the city's premiere events of the summer will see visitors from all over flock to one of the largest ethnic festivals in all of the United States.

"It's a great week for the city," Mayor Jon Mitchell said in his weekly appearance on WBSM. "The Feast gets better and better every year. It's very well managed."

Mitchell said a lot of hard work has gone into ensuring that the Feast is a safe, family-friendly event.

"The days when the Feast was seen as this unsafe thing is pretty far in the rearview mirror," he said. "The City and the Feast Committee have done a great job making it a family event, an event that not only is safe, but feels safe."

"We look at safety threats at big events around the world, and we don't assume New Bedford is too far removed from such things," he said.

Mitchell said that for safety reasons, he wouldn't go into detail about some of the precautions being taken, but he did talk about a few that would be conspicuous to Feast attendees.

"People will see more Jersey barriers around the perimeter, and cars and trucks and vehicles in general parked in places where trucks can drive through," he said. "We've seen what happens in places like Nice and Berlin, and on the London Bridge, when a truck plows into a crowd of people. We obviously don't want that to happen, and we've taken a number of measures to prevent that."

Another visible sign will be an increased police presence around the Feast grounds.

"There will be a very conspicuous police presence. We tend to err on the side of putting more police officers on than less," Mitchell said, noting that over the last couple of years, the city has received mutual aid from other neighboring communities as part of a recripocal arrangement. "That's why you'll see New Bedford Police doing road details in Fairhaven and Dartmouth, and why you see police from other communities like the Half-Marathon and the Feast, to make sure we have the security presence we think we need."

Some notes on this weekend's festivities from New Bedford Police:

One of the highlights of the festival is the parade, which will start at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The parade begins at Brooklawn Park and proceeds south on Acushnet Avenue to Earle Street, turns east onto Earle Street and continues to the Immaculate Conception Church. It then turns north onto Madeira Avenue and proceeds to Madeira Field, where it enters the feast grounds and past the reviewing stand at Stage 1.

There is no parking along the parade route.

New Bedford Police also remind everyone to stay safe during the feast. They say drink responsibly, and don’t drink and drive. If you plan to drink, have a designated driver or call a cab. Remember that heat can exacerbate the affects of alcohol.

Be courteous of the neighbors. Drive slowly, do not park across driveways and try to remain quiet when entering or exiting the feast grounds.

Be respectful of fellow feast-goers. Crowds can get large and lines can be long. Be patient, be polite and enjoy!